WE all know that electric cars improve local air quality, but many don’t realise the impact they have on people and the planet thousands of miles away.
The metals extracted from the ground to make all sorts of modern technology, including the batteries in EVs, can be hugely destructive.
For instance, the Democratic Republic of the Congo holds more than 70% of the world’s cobalt – a metal used extensively in EV batteries.
The growing demand for batteries from car makers and technology companies means it is mined relentlessly and has forced an estimated 40,000 children from the region into child labour.
But a firm called Impossible Mining reckons it has the answer.
Speaking to The Sun, Impossible Mining’s chief sustainability officer and co-founder Renee Grogan said: “Getting metals from the sea bed will free up the market and our technology is the most sustainable way to do it.”
She’s talking about her robots which weigh as much as 25 tonnes and can be lowered into the sea, where they float just above the ocean floor four miles beneath the surface.
At the bottom are potato-sized rocks that contain the precious metals we need, produced over 1,000s of years.
Using cameras and artificial intelligence tech, the robots can tell if a rock has a living creature or plant on or inside it, and will leave those behind.
Each bot will comb the sea floor with its robotic arms like this until it has a shipping container-sized haul and then return it to the boat waiting above.
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Grogan said: “We’re focusing on stretches of sea bed between Hawaii and Mexico and one around the Cook Islands.
“Both are rich in the metals – there’s four times the total amount of land cobalt down on our sea beds.”
Grogan also pointed out that this method is much better for the environment than dredging the sea floor, which simply sucks up everything in its path leaving devastation.
Also, by carrying this out in international waters, it stops countries with the lion’s share of particular metals from driving up prices – such as Russia and its Nickel supply.
That hopefully means cheaper batteries, cheaper electric cars and less reliance on the traditional land mining methods that are so often rife with corruption.
If their various licences are granted, Impossible Mining’s robots should be in a position to start combing beach floors before the end of 2024.
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